Introduction into the series

Welcome to a new series on Proudly dedicated to sharing the stories of influential people from all different backgrounds, career paths and ages to openly discuss what inspires them.

During lockdown it has allowed many people to take time out of their busy schedules to focus on other activities and research that they hadn’t had the chance to before. Either it be by taking up a new hobby, getting around to finally finishing that book and maybe beginning a new chapter to their storied career.

Proudly are delighted to announce that our first LGBTQ+ influencer who has spoken with us is none other than the legendary film star, LGBTQ+ activist and icon Sir Ian McKellen.

To be approached by Ian McKellen’s media team to share his thoughts on what has inspired him during lockdown is an incredible opportunity for Proudly. We will first delve into the career of Ian and the substantial impact he has made on the industry and the LGBTQ+ community.

Ian shared his thoughts with Proudly about inspirational pieces of literature that has taken his interest during lockdown which we will be reviewing and recommending our readers to read through too.

Ian McKellen

Since coming out in 1988, Ian McKellen has been heavily influential on LGBTQ+ social movements worldwide that have helped change the lives of so many people within the community.

Something Ian is passionate about is writing about LGBTQ+ issues and using his platform to contribute to change. Here are a few of the topics Ian has spoken openly about for his activism work: Section 28, age of UK LGBTQ+ consent, LGBTQ+ human rights, LGBTQ+ representation within the media and LGBTQ+ sexual health.

One act of service Ian played a part in was co-founding Stonewall UK, which lobbies for legal and social equality and fund-raised for the group which was formally launched one year to the day since Section 28 became law. This is what Ian had to say about the creation of Stonewall on his website:

“The founding of Stonewall was confirmed in my house (11 September 1988) at a press conference attended by three sceptical journalists from the gay press. Not all gay people approved. We were self-appointed, not democratic like the grassroots Campaign for Homosexual Equality. We would tend to play things safe, not be radical enough in word or deed like Peter Tatchell and Outrage! A group of middle-class Londoners had no right to represent all gay people in the UK.”

– Ian McKellen sourced from his website

Ian’s media influence

Alongside the LGBTQ+ activism work of Ian over the last 32 years, Ian was knighted during the 1991 New Year Honours for services to the performing arts, was made a Companion of Honour for services to drama and to equality in the 2008 New Year Honours and succeeded Stephen Sondheim as Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University. Ian also won the highly acclaimed Global Icon award in 2016 at the British LGBT Awards.

Described by the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content, IMDB biography for Ian states that he is “(Ian McKellen) Widely regarded as one of greatest stage and screen actors both in his native Great Britain and internationally, twice nominated for the Oscar and recipient of every major theatrical award in the UK and US.”

Ian McKellen has played iconic television and cinematic roles such as Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit series, Magneto inside the X-Men universe, and Ian won a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role In A Series for Rasputin. Ian also portrayed James Whale in Gods and Monsters that lead to the hands of Ian McKellen being plaqued in London’s Leicester Square.

Most notably known inside the theatre world, Ian has won countless awards such as the Best Actor Tony Award in 1981 for playing Salieri in Amadeus, winning the 1984 Outstanding One-Person Show at the Drama Desk Awards for Acting Shakespeare, four Olivier Awards (for Pillars of the CommunityBentWild Honey, and Richard III and won the The Lebedev Special Award in 2009 at the Evening Standard Awards.

LGBTQ+ literature that has influenced Ian McKellen

Always seeking to further contribute and educate himself within the arts and the LGBTQ+ community, Ian has spent his lockdown reading a variety of LGBTQ+ biographies.

Ian McKellen spoke with Proudly about two autobiographies that he took a great interest in during lockdown and wanted to share his views on our platform.

“During Lockdown, two confessional autobiographies have been published by two well-known gay men. Michael Cashman chronicles his public life and his personal pain and joy in “One of Them”. Now Will Young has done the same, with honesty and modesty and pride in “To be a Gay Man”. Read them both to feel better about yourself and the world.”

– Ian McKellen, London, August 2020.

Michael Cashman CBE

Lord Cashman is a former actor, co-founder of Stonewall, an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, a Patron of The Food Chain, a London-based HIV charity and a patron of LGBT Labour and was a Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands constituency from 1999 until he stood down in 2014. He has since then been appointed to the House of Lords.

Cashman registered a civil partnership with Paul Cottingham who was also an actor and campaigner and made their partnership official on the 11th March 2006 after dating since 1983. Sadly, Cottingham was diagnosed with a very rare cancer called angiosarcoma in March 2011 and died on 23 October 2014 at the Royal Marsden Hospital.

Although it was during Michael’s acting career when he received his first big storyline in the media. In 1985, Michael was approached by the creators of EastEnders, Julia Smith and Tony Holland, to play Colin Russell who would have been the iconic British soap’s first gay character.

At first Michael was hesitant in accepting the job due to the media backlash that he may face from taking this controversial role at the time in such a huge nationwide scale. After accepting the role, the press scrutiny was clear with The Sun running a story about Michael’s role under the headline “Eastbenders”.

The lack of media support was also shown through the horrific news articles wrote by highly influential journalists at the time such as Piers Morgan who wrote about scrapping EastEnders completely because they aired the first ever gay kiss featuring Lord Cashman in EastEnders. This article is something Piers has since apologised for but these hateful comments will never be forgotten within the LGBTQ+ community.

One Of Them: From Albert Square to Parliament Square

This is how The Guardian explains this autobiography of Lord Cashman: ‘From a famous gay kiss on EastEnders to a seat in the House of Lords – a powerful account of public life, love and loss.’

The ‘One of Them’ autobiography that was published by Bloomsbury and talks about key moments in Michael Cashman life readers never would have had the chance to before.

His relationship with his life-long partner Paul Cottingham, playing the lead role in Oliver! in the West End, being an LGBTQ+ trailblazer within television on EastEnders, being a spokesperson for LGBTQ+ rights where Michael was often being paired with Ian McKellen on anti-Section 28 platforms and being involved in the world of politics, most recently Michael Cashman has been involved in the House of Lords.

Ian McKellen highly commemorates Michael’s honesty in ‘One Of Them’ when discussing his personal life, his pain and joy.

Reviewed by the Guardian they state this book ‘tells not just the story of his life, but also the battle for LGBT equality in the UK’ Proudly readers can discover more reviews and find where to get a copy on GoodReads.

Michael Cashman CBE official Twitter page @mcashmanCBE

Will Young

Since winning the 2002 inaugural series of the ITV singing contest Pop Idol (first winner of the whole worldwide franchise) Will Young became a household name when his first single Anything Is Possible/Evergreen went straight to number one in the UK music charts and was the best-selling UK single of the Noughties. Will’s debut song is also the 19th best-selling single of all time in the UK.

With over four UK number one albums (From Now On, Friday’s Child, Echoes, 85% Proof) and four UK number one singles (Anything Is Possible/Evergreen, Light My Fire, The Long and Winding Road, Leave Right Now) Will Young has been an iconic figure within the music industry over the last twenty years.

Shortly after winning Pop Idol in March 2002, Will publicly came out as gay, to avoid a tabloid newspaper from outing him. When coming out Will stated that he had never hidden his sexual orientation and was comfortable with himself.

LGBTQ+ and cultural acceptance as a whole has continued to grow over the last decade, similar with representation within the media. Growing up, I struggled to find appropriate LGBTQ+ representation within the media and always felt like an outcast just because of my sexuality. This is why Proudly have a series dedicated to LGBTQ+ influencers in the media to help shine a spotlight on these incredible people making strides in a career that once they never felt apart of before.

Will Young has been such an incredible role-model for the LGBTQ+ community as even when he did not feel supported or accepted by the media, he stayed true to himself and live his life the way he wanted to.

Will Young – To Be A Gay Man

Described as an honest and open discussion, in this book Will Young documents his experiences growing up as a gay man, in particular an explanation of the gay shaming he encountered since being in the public eye.

Ian McKellen commended the honesty, modesty and pride within this autobiography as it shares stories of Will’s life as he talks candidly about growing up gay.

Inside this book Will relives personal encounters with his school life in the 80’s, Will’s charity work and how children call others gay as an insult as if it should be something to be ashamed off. There is a particular section of where Will discusses Aids which was known as the ‘gay plague’. To Be A Gay Man is a very open account of his life as a gay man and how happy and comfortable he is with himself now after years of wondering.

Amazon described To Be A Gay Man as ‘Will Young speaks out about gay shame, revealing the impact it had on his own life, how he learned to deal with it.’

You will find a friend, champion and mentor, breaking taboos with frank honesty, and offering invaluable practical advice on overcoming the difficult issues too often faced within the LGBTQ+ community.’

You can read more reviews and find where to get a copy on GoodReads.


We at Proudly are honoured to have shared the story about two incredible pieces of literature from two inspirational people within the LGBTQ+ community.

We cannot thank Ian McKellen enough for getting in touch with Proudly to share his thoughts and making this story possible.

If you wish to be a part of this series please get in contact.